DUDLEY’S leader is in hot water with Black Country folk after flying the flag for a merger with Birmingham .

Cllr David Sparks told the BBC a Greater Birmingham authority, including Dudley, was both inevitable and desirable.

The remarks ignited a storm of protest at the start of a month of events to mark the first Black Country Day on Monday July 14.

The man behind the celebrations hit out, saying Cllr Sparks should “get out more” and listen to people.

Black Country Festival organiser, Garry Sawers, said: “We are not going to be swallowed up by Brum, it is a very big insult. What David Sparks needs to do is talk to the people and then he needs to listen.”

The month-long festival got under way last weekend and Mr Sawyers, who is also known as singer Black Country Gaz, says the public’s response shows people are proud of their roots.

Mr Sawyers said: “It’s about celebrating our heritage and pride, we don’t want to be called brummies. He has totally misread the situation.

“How about going for a Black Country council taking in the four boroughs?”

Cllr Sparks’ comments, which have been branded offensive on the official Black Country Day Twitter website, were broadcast on July 6.

He said: “It is inevitable and desirable, In the West Midlands if we don’t have organisations similar to Greater Manchester we will suffer. We will suffer internationally because we are in global competition.

“Individual local authorities cannot deliver all their services within their boundaries any more.”

In response to complaints about his remarks, Cllr Sparks added: “In Dudley we have backed the Black Country Day celebrations more than anyone and I have personally been involved in ensuring we fly the flag from the town hall to declare Dudley as the capital of the Black Country.

“We fully support the Black Country celebrating its own identity and this is why we have been so involved in celebrating the region through a Black Country Festival taking place throughout this month.

"On a completely separate issue, in order to ensure Dudley and all parts of the Black Country gets its fair share of national funding as we move forward, the concept of city regions and working in partnership with our neighbouring authorities in the West Midlands region cannot be ignored as working together will potentially bring significant economic benefits to all of our communities."